Many people today find themselves seeking out approaches and practices in their pursuit of good health that may not necessarily be considered to be part of the typical, conventional approach to conventional medical care. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, these products and practices generally fall into three categories.
- Complementary practices, which are used along with conventional medicine practices, such as massages after surgery or injury.
- Alternative medical practices, which would be used instead of the conventional medical treatment, such as herbal remedies in lieu of prescription medication, or chiropractic treatment instead of surgery.
- Integrative health, which combines conventional and complementary practices together to treat a person holistically, such as following doctor’s instructions after a stroke, as well as practicing tai chi or yoga.
The NCCIH reports that about half of older adults in the United States use one or more of these health practices, which include:
- Nutrition, such as special diets, supplements, herbal products, and probiotics.
- Psychological, practices like meditation, music therapies, or relaxation and mindfulness practices
- Physical, which includes acupuncture, acupressure, massage, or chiropractic techniques
- Integrated practices, combinations of the above three, such as yoga, tai chi, sandbox therapy, or mindful eating
While complementary and alternative medicines are certainly popular, more scientific research is being undertaken to determine whether certain practices are actually beneficial. Studies have shown that some are categorically ineffective, but people might enjoy the experience or improve through the placebo effect. Some therapies have been determined to be useful, such as meditation, yoga, massage, and some dietary supplements like fiber, vitamins, and minerals.